Christie Names Ombudsman, Announces Other Reforms
Gov. Chris Christie named the dean of Seton Hall’s law school to the newly created position of state ombudsman Thursday and announced several other reform measures that were recommended in last month’s report on the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
Christie named Patrick Hobbs, dean of the Seton Hall University School of Law and a 10-year member of the State Commission of Investigation, to be ombudsman. He will be responsible for overseeing ethics training for administration staff, helping to establish the position of chief ethics officer and creating a mechanism for staffers to report possible misconduct.
Christie also proposed making it a prosecutable offense for government officials not to report official misconduct.
“You want people to understand the gravity of the situation,” Hobbs said. “Certainly the intention is to make sure that if anyone sees something, they should feel comfortable to come forward, but also that they understand that they’re required to come forward.”
Christie also announced he would eliminate the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs and replace it with an expanded Office of Community and Constituent Relations that will focus primarily on responding to the public’s needs.
The measures were among recommendations in the taxpayer-funded report by law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher released last month that exonerated Christie from wrongdoing in the bridge lane-closure scandal.
The closures in Fort Lee last September caused four days of massive traffic backups leading to the country’s busiest bridge. Emails and text messages released under subpoena revealed the closures appeared to have been orchestrated by a Christie aide and an employee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, possibly for political retribution. Federal and state authorities are investigating.
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